If you are currently contemplating the decision to attend library school, chances are at some point in your search process, you have heard some helpful individual say something along the lines of “Libraries are dying/e-books are rendering books irrelevant/why do you need a degree for that/fill in your own silly reason here.” This issue irked me so much, it actually wound up being the introduction to my admissions essay for Simmons.
Are e-books and the internet changing the way in which libraries operate? Of course. But the library as an institution is far from becoming irrelevant, and in fact, I think this is a fascinating time to choose to enter our noble profession. For a start, there’s so much potential that technology and the internet opens up for us, and a simple Google search is just the tip of the iceberg. When your friends and family learn that you actually know how to extract useful information out of Google in a method more refined than random keyword searches, their estimation of you will rise. If you ever help them locate information using a database, well, you might as well be able to walk on water.
There’s also the legal side of things – issues of copyright, fair use, pricing and licensing of e-books. We might not be directly involved in these conversations, but they certainly affect us all and the work that we do.
Take e-books. You probably own an e-reader of some sort or know someone who does, and your public library probably offers access to e-book downloads that you can checkout, just as you would do with a hard copy. Yet, the decision last March by HarperCollins to limit checkouts of their e-books to 26 (at which point a library would have to re-purchase the license) or even the case brought this week by the Justice Department against Apple and other e-book vendors about price fixing have an impact on our field. Do we move with full speed ahead to e-books? Do we wait and see how this all plays out? How do we keep up with a field of technology that is producing better, faster, sharper, cheaper devices every six-eight months?
And that’s just the start of things. Information preservation. Archives. Curation. These are all issues of concern addressed within the LIS curriculum and within our profession. So, to all those who think that going to get your LIS degree is a huge waste of time, I say psht. The road ahead might be uncertain, but the challenges and rewards of entering the profession at this point in time are immense.